Reviewing the Reviews: Mixed praise for ‘Lootera’

08 Jul,2013

By Deepa Gahlot

 

Vikramaditya Motwane’s second film after Udaan, seems to have driven some critics into paroxysms of praise, including one rare 5 star rating, by rediff.com’s Raja Sen.

 

Words like poetic, lyrical, awe-inspiring studded most reviews, though hardly anyone mentioned the tradition of filmmaking from Bengal that Lootera is inspired by. As some of the not-so-positive reviews pointed out, the slow pace is a problem, and just because it is a sumptuous-looking period piece, does not automatically make it a masterpiece.

 

All this left the audience quite bewildered. How to figure out whether the film is worth 2/5 stars or 5? It may be said that at a time when gangster films and crude comedies get the box-office, the best that can be said about Lootera, is that it does not pander to the lowest common denominator.

 

Deepanjana Pal, writing in Firstpost.com commented, “Lootera is heartbreaking in many ways, but the most crushing is the realisation that the smartest filmmakers of Bollywood coming together – Motwane’s long-time champion Anurag Kashyap wrote the dialogues and is one of the producers – doesn’t necessarily make a good film. Worse, it can result in a film that begins with promise and ends up as flat-out boring.”

 

Shubhra Gupta of Indian Express was let down too. “I should have watched Lootera backwards, because it finishes with an almost unbearable loveliness. The ache in the heart comes as a welcome relief, but a little too late. The journey towards the end is shot through with beauty, one painterly frame after another evoking admiration, but it did not touch me. And that is where Vikramaditya Motwane’s film becomes a disappointing second act, after his magnificent debut Udaan.”

 

Sudhish Kamath of The Hindu wrote, “Short stories work best as short films. There is a certain brevity and inherent pace that must not be tampered with. Especially, if the source material relies on an O Henry ending. O Henry’s short stories, especially The Last Leaf, that Lootera is based on, have the structure of a joke. It’s all about the punchline. You need to say it with all the detail you can, keep your audience wondering and before they know it, deliver that last line with sweet timing and get out of there. The good news is that Vikramaditya Motwane’s Lootera delivers that last line with perfection. If only the makers had kept the rest of the storytelling equally tight and gripping.”

 

Karan Anshuman of Mumbai Mirror was mildly critical, “An O Henry short story is the spark that ignites a cinematic interpretation that undoubtedly would leave even the celebrated writer dazzled, if unaffected. Director Vikramaditya Motawane has constructed an elaborate experiment of a film. A big-budget visual delight starring A-list actors, Lootera’s story is simplistic; it’s telling self-consciously un-Bollywood, and one that aspires for artistic glory.”

 

Then there were the 4 star raves:

Rajeev Masand of IBNLive.com recommended dropping everything to watch it. “There is attention to the smallest details in ‘Lootera’, like the art direction, the lighting, and particularly Mahendra Shetty’s intuitive camera that knows just how to capture the lovely landscapes as well as the somber mood of later scenes. Amit Trivedi’s beautiful songs and background score add another layer of feeling to the aching love story here. Yet it’s hard to resign yourself to some convenient coincidences in the plot, or even the naivete that filters in towards the end. In a film so close to perfection, the small lapses are hard to hide.”

 

Raja Sen gushed, “Motwane’s direction is so assured and confident that this scarcely feels like his second feature. The script is clearly one he believes in, and the film is resultantly free of false-notes. Even the few moments that feel like narrative missteps turn out to be masterstrokes. And, as exemplified by a breathtaking chase sequence that could result in any number of outcomes, Motwane sides with his story, not with any one of his characters. A film, then, about life, love and leaves. And in the end it comes down to the sort of snow-surrounded tree that you can draw even if you’ve always had trouble drawing leaves. Magnificent.”

 

Meena Iyer of the Times of India gave it the expected rave, but with a rider, “In his second outing, post-the critically acclaimed Udaan(2010), Motwane definitely shows an upward graph. He transports you to the ’50s effortlessly with his vintage cars, opulent havelis, authentic costumes and terrific performances from his lead cast. Every frame is a picture postcard. Sonakshi, Barun Chanda and Ranveer need special mention. However, be suitably warned; the old-world aura and the languid pace are not for the young and restless. Note: You may find this film boring if state-of-the-art, slow romance is not your idea of a movie outing.”

 

Saibal Chatterjee was hugely impressed. “An epic canvas, a quiet love story, a cops-and-robbers drama and an impressively sophisticated storytelling style: Lootera has all this and much more. Vikramaditya Motwane, who earned his spurs with the critically acclaimed Udaan in 2010, works here with a completely different cinematic easel. What he has carved out of the raw material at his disposal can only bolster his reputation as a filmmaker who knows exactly how not to be run of the mill. He fills the Lootera frame with fable, history, art, literature, poetry, occasional nods to classic Hindi cinema and music, and loads of passion, beauty and magic. In short, Lootera is a Bollywood miracle – a rare Mumbai film that is mounted on a lavish scale and yet dares not to play by the established norms of the marketplace.”

 

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